This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" - We Are The Mighty
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This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”

This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”


The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.

From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.

 

Related: The story of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ makes your officers look pretty smart

There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.

It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Officer of the 17th Lancers (Painting via Cranston Fine Arts)

An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”

The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.

Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Wikimedia)

Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.

This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Library of Congress)

Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last charge of the bicycle brigade

In World Wars I and II, where thousands of tanks clashed on land and hundreds of ships fought at sea, and millions of men charged each other through trenches and across hills and valleys on foot, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought from their trusty steeds: the bicycle.

Yeah, the two-wheeled contraptions that most kids get for Christmas or a birthday a few times throughout their childhood was once a cutting-edge weapon of war — and they were effective.


This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

Indian bicycle troops at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

(Imperial War Museums)

The modern bicycle, with pedals and two wheels, emerged in the 1860s and slowly turned the “velocipede” from a leisure device of rich gentlemen into a viable method of transport. Fairly quickly, especially after the introduction of rubber tires, military experts saw a role for bicycles in wartime.

The European powers embraced the new technology first — not surprising, since that’s where the bike originated. Most military advocates pushed for the bike as a scout vehicle, allowing observers to get close to the front or ride near enemy units to collect data and then quickly get away with the information to friendly lines.

But, by the 1880s, there were already hotly debated movements to use the cyclists as a sort of alternate mounted infantry. Mounted infantrymen rode horses like cavalry, but generally dismounted and fought on foot when they arrived at the battle. They could cover more ground and often acted as a vanguard, tying down enemy forces until their foot-bound brethren could arrive.

In the late 1800s, cyclists took on challenges to prove their worth in battle. Bicycle infantry covered 40 miles a day with all their gear to prove they were more mobile, and messenger cyclists raced other signal soldiers working with flags and torches to prove who was faster. The cyclists won most of the competitions, and one messenger unit delivered from Washington, D.C. to Denver in just six days, covering approximately 1,700 miles while climbing 5,000 feet in altitude.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

An ad recruiting cyclists for the British military.

(Imperial War Museums)

By the time Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 — coincidentally, on June 28, the same day that the 12th Tour de France began — cyclists were an accepted part of warfare.

As The Great War got underway, Allied governments rushed to increase the size of their cyclists corps. Reconnaissance cyclist John Parr, a 17-year-old who had lied about his age to join, was possibly Britain’s first casualty of the war, taking fire from German troops while relaying messages.

As the war ground on, Great Britain bought bicycles and trained troops to ride them, famously advertising that “bad teeth” were “no bar” to joining. Bicycle infantry units rode around the front, quickly reinforcing areas that had suffered unsustainable losses from German attacks or plussing up British positions for major attacks. Cyclists mounted coastal patrols and fought fires in areas raided by German aircraft.

And cyclists were added to standard units with even conventional infantry units getting a few cyclists to ride ahead and get orders, relaying them back to the unit so it could deploy effectively as it arrived. Eventually, even artillery units got cyclists, and some even experimented with towing the guns, especially machine guns, behind the bicycles. (This was one job that bikes weren’t great for. Just watch a dad huffing and puffing away while towing their kid — then imagine the kid weighs hundreds of pounds.)

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

It’s all whimsical and charming until you realize these are Nazi SS soldiers and they likely used the bicycles to more quickly murder people.

(German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of troops were serving in bicycle units or roles, but the increasing role of the automobile threatened their continued use in warfare. Italy even equipped their elite marksmen, the Bianchi, with the bicycle so they could strike faster.

After all, many of the bike’s advantages over walking; the speed and the efficiency, or horseback riding, no animal to care for and feed, were also true of the automobiles. And, except for the need for gasoline, the automobile was simply a better tool. It was faster, could carry heavier loads, and it was less draining on the operator’s mind and body.

So, when World War II rolled around, the bicycle took on a smaller role, but it still served, mostly with scouts and the occasional military maneuver. Britain actually created a special bicycle for paratroopers, but then got larger gliders that could carry Jeeps before D-Day, so the bikes went ashore with Canadian soldiers and others instead of paratroopers.

Bicycle-mounted troops were key for many counterattacks or quick movements, especially where supply lines were long, or the demand for fuel for tanks was high. The fuel problems of Germany led to a greater concentration of bicycles in their units while the Allies, with better logistics and greater natural resources, relied more heavily on vehicles.

After World War II, some European militaries continued to employ these two-wheeled vehicles for reconnaissance and even anti-tank roles. Switzerland even kept its bicycle units around until 2001, nearly a century after standing up their first bicycle unit.

Today, bicycles enjoy a very limited role in special operations and espionage. U.S. operators even used bikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But don’t expect a sudden increase in bicycle operations unless more guerrilla forces embrace them. A modern military is more likely to increase mobility with helicopters and armored vehicles. And, if necessary, electric motorcycles would provide much of the stealth of bicycles and even better mobility without wearing out the rider.

Articles

Israeli air strike hits huge Hezbollah weapons stockpile in Syria

A stockpile of weapons for the terrorist group Hezbollah was hit April 27 by the Israeli Defense Force, resulting in a huge explosion in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.


According to a report by Reuters, propaganda from Syrian state media placed blame squarely on the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel reserved the right to act in order to prevent Hezbollah from receiving “advanced weapons” from Iran.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah,” the British news agency quoted Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz as saying in an interview with Army Radio, even as the Israeli military declined to comment on the apparent air strike.

Israel has apparently launched other strikes against stockpiles of weapons that are allegedly en route to Hezbollah — albeit the only truly confirmed strike was one this past March that resulted in the first confirmed kill for the Arrow missile defense system. According to Bloomberg, another depot was targeted late last week. The terrorist group is backing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, alongside their Iranian sponsors. A BBC compilation of suspected Israeli strikes – and the one from last March that was confirmed – include some that have killed Hezbollah terrorists and in one instance, an Iranian general.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
An Israeli F-15I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ

Iran has a history of providing terrorist groups and rebels with support. During the Iraq War, Iran allegedly provided explosively-formed penetrators to Shiite insurgents in Iraq, while also reportedly passing them on to anti-Afghan forces as well. Iran’s support for the insurgents is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran also supplied Noor anti-ship missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who launched multiple attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). The United States eventually responded by launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites controlled by the Houthis. An Iranian-supplied anti-ship missile was fired on the Israeli corvette INS Hanit that did minor damage during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Articles

8 best examples of nonsensical ‘military logic’

Military logic is like military intelligence; it seems like an oxymoron until you realize it just follows its own — very weird — rules.


But sometimes, there’s just no way to read the rules that makes sense, and you’re left with these eight moments:

1. Just going to break these new boots in before we get into contact …

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
In other news, never use your fighting load carrier in a fight and avoid getting into combat in the Army combat uniform.

2. In the Air Force’s defense, airmen have a better history of success with planes than dates.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Don’t talk to the cheerleader; save the world.

3. Come on, he left the pin in it.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Alright, gonna go work on my college courses after just one more game.

4. In their defense, every bag that wasn’t laid out was inevitably incomplete on target.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
So, this one might be on the joes, not the generals.

5. What they really mean is that it’s too simple to make a good evaluation bullet.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Better complicate it up and turn it into a mind-numbing PowerPoint deck. (via America’s Sgt Maj.)

6. Oh, the quaint old days when the jets cost only $70 million.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
The F-35 will take aerial warfare into the future of ridiculous overmatch.

7. What if a truck comes by and can’t see the soldiers in their fancy camouflage?

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Also, are we not going to talk about why we need to rake the dirt in the first place?

8. Long drives are dangerous, that’s why you should only do them in large convoys at night in tactical conditions.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Let’s be honest, he’s just trying to limit the first sergeant has to drive to pick up all the troops hit with DUIs.

Articles

North Korean threats affect Marine relocation

A plan to relocate 4,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam is under review because of North Korean threats.


U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Senate Appropriations Committee May 24 a realignment plan for the military could be delayed, Kyodo News reported.

“The capabilities of our adversaries have changed the dynamic there,” Neller said, referring to North Korea.

Tokyo did not confirm Neller’s statement.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters May 25 that the “relocation to Guam remains unchanged and I’m not aware of anything otherwise.”

Pyongyang most recently launched a midrange ballistic missile on May 21, and claimed the projectile was a solid-fuel missile that can swiftly target South Korea’s missile defense system KAMD, as well as U.S. military bases in Japan and the Pacific.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

The original plan was to move 4,000 Marines to Guam and another 5,000 Marines to Hawaii by 2022.

Neller also said he and Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Harry Harris have reviewed and “looked at different options for where they might at least temporarily base aircraft because of the evolving threat.”

U.S. military experts and Japanese government officials are looking into relocation alternatives in Hawaii or Darwin, Australia, if transferring Marines to Guam presents challenges.

Maintaining forces in Guam, Tinian and other nearby islands must first take the environment into account, one Marine officer said, according to Japanese press reports.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

A separate decision to relocate a U.S. military base within Okinawa has been met with strong local opposition.

“They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [U.S.] bases anymore,” one protester said as a new base was being built in the Henoko area of the island in April.

The relocation within Okinawa has been a work in progress since 1996, and the United States and Japan had agreed a relocation facility in the Henoko area would be the “only solution” to problems with the current U.S. Air Station Futenma.

Articles

17 breathtaking photos of the Air Force at night

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing sits on the flightline March 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. | US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel


The US Air Force is the world’s premier aerial force.

The Air Force has 39 distinct types of aircraft, not counting individual variants within each of those airframes. This range of planes allows the Air Force to highly specialize for each mission and achieve incredible successes.

The following photos show some of the amazing missions that the Air Force carries out both on air and land at night.

A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

The F-35 Integrated Test Force is completing a series of night flights, testing the ability to fly the jet safely in instrument meteorological conditions where the pilot has no external visibility references.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force

A special operations Airman aims his weapon to designate the location of a threat Oct. 9, 2014, during a training mission at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Staff Sgt. Joseph Pico, a security forces Airman with the 106th Rescue Wing, conducts night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
New York Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Canadian special operations regiment members call in close-air support from their US Air Force allies during Emerald Warrior 2013 April 26, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Senior Airman Matt Bruch

Airmen with the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepare to load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy Oct. 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, sits on the flight line during pre-flight checks Nov. 23, 2010, while deployed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

Staff Sgt. Robert Clark directs anArmy M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System out of a C-17 Globemaster III, April 25 during Exercise Emerald Warrior, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Beneath the light of a full moon, Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing prepare a C-130J Hercules for a flight March 27, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Russ Scalf

Senior Airman Larry Webster scans for potential threats using night vision goggles after completing a cargo airdrop Oct. 7, 2013, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Webster is a 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

A US Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with the 107th Airlift Wing fires off flares during a night formation training mission.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force

Maintainers from the 81st Fighter Squadron pull out firing pins and chalks to ready an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for takeoff before a night combat search and rescue training mission July 20, 2012.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard

Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot at Bagram Airfield, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 7, 2013 after completing an air cargo drop mission in Ghazni Provence Afghanistan.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

Articles

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.


But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.

 

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
The burned out C-130 from the failed Operation Eagle Claw sits in the Iranian Desert. At far right is the destroyed helicopter. (Photo: US Special Operations Command)

Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
A C-130 conducting a Rocket-Assisted Takeoff. GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.

Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.

This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.

Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.

But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.

Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):

Articles

That time Gerald Ford promoted George Washington to six-star general

In today’s military, seniority by rank is limited to four-star generals and admirals. And while public law still allows for five-star generals, one hasn’t been appointed since Omar Bradley held the rank in 1950.


Yet, six-star general is a rank that (technically) exists.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Snap to it, Truman! The buck stops when I tell it to. (DoD Photo)

Two men have held higher ranks in the Armed Forces of the United States. The latest was General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, whose contributions to service were awarded with the title General of the Armies of the United States, complete with gold four-star insignia. His rank was higher than that of other four star generals due to an act of Congress that mandated that he remain preeminent above all personnel until his death in 1948.

Although I hope the act of Congress didn’t specify the year.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
That mustache will always be out of regs, but first in our hearts.

The other is the father of America, who wore only two stars in his lifetime, President George Washington. The Continental Congress commissioned Washington as a Major General in 1775. As Commander-In-Chief, he outranked all others fielded by Congress. After his Presidency, his successor, John Adams, promoted him to Lieutenant General and he would be on the Army rolls as Lt. Gen. Washington in perpetuity, outranked by every four- and five-star general who came after him.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
At the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Washington would be getting coffee for the four stars. We can’t have that.

Toward the end of World War II, Congress considered promoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, already a five-star general, to General of the Armies, on the same level as Pershing. The Army Institute of Heraldry even designed an insignia for this rank which included six stars.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
(Army Institute of Heraldry)

But as the years went on and the U.S. came closer to its bicentennial birthday, the idea that someone could outrank George Washington began to bother some in government, including President Gerald Ford. In 1976, Ford would sign a bill which promoted Washington to stand “above all grades of the Army, past or present.”

The text of the bill reads:

“Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That… The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”

News reports at the time referred to his promotion as a six-star general’s rank (though there is no mention of the insignia he would wear).

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

House Representative Lucien Nedzl of Michigan thought the rank was unnecessary, saying “it’s like the Pope offering to make Christ a Cardinal.”

popular

How the Navy kept its Vietnam river forces going

For a lot of sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat. But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story. The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.

One other group of sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force. This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong (and later, the North Vietnamese Army) in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat vessels in service, and “brown water” sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.


In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations. The first were PBRs (Patrol Boat Riverine). The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long vessels, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch: Three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard. These small boats could be loaded up extras, too, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!

Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

A crewman rests near the forward gun turret of a PBR.

(US Navy)

The other vessel was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.” This vessel, famous for being served on by former Secretary of State John Kerry (whose service drew controversy in 2004), packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam, the PCF was also exported.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

Swift Boats take South Vietnamese Marines to their infiltration point.

(US Navy)

While the sailors who went into harm’s way deserve our thanks, they could never have done it without the help of those who carried out maintenance on the vessels that brought them to the fight.

See how those maintainers kept the PBRs and Swift Boats in service and in action below!

www.youtube.com

Articles

Watch a 20mm Lahti anti-tank rifle rip through steel plates

The Lahti anti-tank rifle looks a little unusual, showing a pair of skis on the front. But then again, it does come from Finland.


According to Modernfirearms.net, the Lahti L-39, also known as the Norsupyssy — or “elephant gun” — fired a 20x138mm round and had a 10-shot clip. While not effective against the most modern tanks, like the Russian T-34, the rifle proved to be useful against bunkers and other material targets. One variant was a full-auto version used as an anti-aircraft gun.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t laugh. According to the 25th Infantry Division Association’s website, American personnel used the Browning Automatic Rifle — or BAR — against the Japanese planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This semi-auto rifle was kept in Finnish military stocks until the 1980s, when many were scrapped. This makes the M107 Barrett used by the United States military look like a mousegun.

A number of these rifles, though, were declared surplus and sold in the United States in the early 1960s. The Gun Control Act of 1968, though, placed these rifles under some very heavy controls — even though none were ever used in crimes.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
A Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle used during World War II. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In this video, the punch this rifle packed is very apparent. The people who set up the test put up 16 quarter-inch steel plates. You can see what that shell does to the plates in this GIF.

via GIPHY

For a real in-depth look at this awesome gun — and the way they set up this firepower demonstration — look at the whole video below:

FullMag, YouTube

Articles

19 photos that show what Army sappers do

Sappers are the Army’s experts in mobility on the battlefield. They stop the enemy from moving around and clear obstacles that inhibit the U.S. infantry and other ground troops. To do these jobs, they have to know how to fight an enemy, construct infrastructure like bridges and fences, and destroy enemy obstacles with explosives and tools.


Here are 19 photos that show their mission:

1. Engineers clear routes through enemy territory for maneuver forces.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

2. To do this, they detect enemy mines, IEDs, barbed wire, trenches, and other obstructions.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

3. If an obstruction or explosive is detected, the engineers ‘interrogate’ (sapper speak) the obstacle and decide what to do.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Adam Simmler

4. Once they identify a threat, they may mark it so infantry units know where the safe path is.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

5. But they often decide to blow the obstruction up. Sappers are known for their skill with explosives.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

6. When the enemy is hiding in a building, the sappers can cut through the walls or doors to get to them.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

7. They could also just blow the door off the hinges or a hole in a wall. Again, sappers blow up a lot of stuff.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

8. Once the building is open, they can force their way inside but will often leave the task of searching the building to the infantry or other maneuver units.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Roger Ashley

9. When the enemy protects the objective with barbed wire and other obstacles, the engineers use Bangalore torpedoes to blow open a path.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

10. Another specialty of engineers is getting themselves and equipment to hard to reach places. Here, sappers create improvised rafts to cross a lake.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

11. They also have proper boats, like the Zodiac, that they’ll use to cross the water.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

12. Sappers can even drop directly into the water with their equipment and boats via a helicopter.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

13. They’ll climb up cliff faces or repel from ledges to open a route or block an enemy.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

14. Sappers use many different explosives, including missiles, to complete their missions.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

15. Javelin Missiles are most commonly used to destroy enemy armored vehicles.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

16. Engineers may aim to hit an enemy tank or armored vehicle while it’s in a choke point, preventing other vehicles from crossing there.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army 251st Engineer Company

17. Enemy ground units can be stopped or slowed with mines. Claymores fire a barrage of steel bearings at enemies.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army

18. For more security, the sappers and other engineers can put up fences or other obstacles.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

19. This prevents enemy soldiers from getting to friendly forces as easily.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford

MIGHTY HISTORY

This clever advertising doomed thousands of aviators

In the lead up to World War II, the U.S. Army Air Force had to make tough decisions on how to spend limited defense dollars. Decades of strict budgets after World War I left capabilities across the military underdeveloped, and the Air Forces decided to spend their part of the pie focusing on strategic bombing.

And, unfortunately, when a manufacturer told them a new bomber wouldn’t need a fighter escort, they bought it. Thousands of aviators would pay the price as unescorted B-17 formations faced losses of over 20 percent.


When the Army Air Force was looking for a new bomber in the early 1930s, they floated the idea of getting a beastly four-engine bird. Most bombers had two engines at the time, but it was thought a larger, four-engine plane could carry more bombs a longer way.

Boeing proved this was true with their Model 299. It had four engines and could carry 8,000 pounds of bombs while flying at faster speeds than other bombers of the day. It carried 13 large machine guns, mostly .50-cals. A reporter for The Seattle Times dubbed it a “flying fortress” in a photo caption and Boeing ran with it.

The future looked good for the Model 299 as it dominated a fly-off competition in 1935. But then it crashed and so was disqualified. Worse, it turned out that that the Model 299 was way more expensive than its primary competitors, and so the Army chief of staff ordered a two-engine bomber instead.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

(Seamus Darragh, Pixabay)

But the Army’s top aviators still wanted the Model 299, and they managed to order 13 for testing and dubbed them YB-17s. The plane was popular with aviation officers and its great range led to some public successes in the pre-war years. The Army Air Force already had a body of doctrine supporting the use of heavy, long-range bombers, but they refined it around their new flying fortresses.

And the new doctrine did treat the planes like they were fortresses, even though the fortress moniker originated with a journalist and was adopted by salesmen. As navigator Bob Culp recalled in 2008, “When you realize you’re protected by a very thin skin of aluminum, you realize you’re not really in a fortress.”

Boeing had advertised that the bomber could fly bombing missions in daylight conditions and defend itself from enemy fighters thanks to all those machine guns. Which, if true, would’ve been a godsend, because there were no fighters who could match the range of the bomber. And so then-Col. Curtis E. LeMay drafted a formation for the bomber that maximized the ability of the planes to protect each other.

Basically, 9-12 planes would fly in a box so their guns would cover all angles of attack. Three or more of these boxes would fly together. There was a lead box, then a box that flew higher, and finally a trail box that flew low.

With 36 planes formed into three boxes, there were 468 machine guns present. They would have 324,000 rounds of ammunition between them. The spread of a single .50-cal. machine gun would fire rounds across a spread 600 yards wide when firing at planes 1,000 yards away. With 468 planes firing 600-yard-wide spreads, it was thought they could form an actual wall of deadly steel at oncoming fighters.

And so the doctrine was approved, and aviation officers fooled themselves that B-17s really could defend themselves.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

But then American B-17s made their European combat debut in 1942. The planes flying over Europe in daytime proved easy pickings.

Flak gunners didn’t give the first crap about all those machine guns on the planes. Worse, B-17 pilots couldn’t maintain the precise boxes necessary for 360-degree coverage, and gunners couldn’t always keep the proper fields of fire.

Crews could head home, their duty fulfilled, after 25 missions. Only 1 in 4 would survive to reach that milestone. On one of America’s first large bomber raids in 1942, less than 300 bombers set off for Nazi-occupied Europe and 60 of them were lost, an attrition of over 20 percent.

Even when new fighters joined the war, the problem persisted anytime the B-17s outflew their escorts. In October 1943 the Eighth Air Force flew Mission Number 115 against factories in Schweinfurt, Germany. The 291-plane formation survived well while British Supermarine Spitfires and then P-47 Thunderbolts escorted them to the border. But then they were alone against German fighters.

Sixty planes were shot down and only 229 successfully dropped their bombs on target. Only 197 made it back to England.

The fact was, the B-17 Flying Fortress was anything but a fortress, and it needed fighters escorts like any other bomber.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time engineers at China Lake MacGyvered a laser-guided missile

Laser-guided bombs had proven to be a winner during the Vietnam War. There was just one minor problem: Their range was relatively short. This was actually a big deal for pilots, who had to deal with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot them down.

Some geeks at the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, though, had a thought. They took a typical GBU-16 Paveway II laser guided-bomb, which was centered on the Mk 83 1,000-pound general purpose bomb. Now, a 1,000-pound bomb might seem small compared to the 2,000-pound bombs many planes carry today, but in World War II, the 1,000-pound bomb was good enough to sink carriers.


But what these geeks did was add a rocket motor from the AGM-45 Shrike, an anti-radar missile used to shut down enemy air defenses, to the back of the Paveway. The result was a weapon that gave the A-6 Intruder one heck of a punch. It certainly worked out better for Navy pilots than that JATO rocket did for a Chevy Impala driver who may or may not have existed.

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

The Skipper’s primary component is, for all intents and purposes, a GBU-16 laser-guided bomb. Engineers at China Lake stuck a Shrike’s rocket motor on the back, and got a weapon that could hit a target 14 nautical miles away.

(US Navy photo)

The missile took some time to win over the brass, but they eventually gave it a designation – the AGM-123 – and a name: Skipper. Over 2,500 were purchased. The Skipper got its name because of the way the guidance fins on the Paveway worked: They tended to make very sharp turns, so it would appear like the missile was skipping like a stone across a pond.

The Skipper was primarily intended to take out enemy ships from beyond the range of their defenses. They had their moment in the sun during Operation Preying Mantis, the American retaliation in the wake of the mining of the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58).

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

The Iranian frigate Sahand was on the receiving end of two Skippers and a bunch of other weapons during Operation Preying Mantis.

(US Navy photo)

Four Skippers were used against the Iranian frigate Sahand, which was eventually sunk. The Skipper also saw some action during Operation Desert Storm. It had an effective range of almost 14 nautical miles, although its rocket could propel it up to 30 nautical miles. The real limitation came not from its improvised nature, but from the range of laser designators currently in service.

The Skipper was retired in the post-Cold War drawdowns of the 1990s, which also claimed the plane that wielded it most of the time, the A-6 Intruder. Still, for a while, it gave the Navy a very powerful and precise punch.